Herald Journal, Oct. 31, 2005
Chef finds recipe for 'wow' factor
By Dave Cox
Creating something out of nothing and making people happy is the foundation of Chef Doris LaMott Hoel’s business.
The former Lester Prairie resident recently opened Chateau Lamothe, a wine-bar and event center in Burnsville.
The chateau is her latest step in a career centered on friendship and good food.
Hoel’s mother, Annette, was her inspiration to embark on a career in cooking.
“She cooked and baked all of the time, and I was always there, helping to decorate cookies and licking the beaters,” Hoel said.
From the time she was six years old, every time her mother would go away, Hoel would bake something.
She always knew she would go into cooking, but the real turning point came when she was seven or eight years old.
“I know you are going to bake something while I am gone; just don’t do anything with yeast,” her mother said, before leaving to visit the neighbors.
Naturally, this made Hoel curious, and she set out to find out what this mysterious thing called “yeast” was all about.
She looked through her mother’s pantry until she found some yeast.
Then, she dug out the Pillsbury’s Best 1956 cookbook and looked for something containing yeast that had a color picture, so she would know what it should look like.
Her mother came home to the smell of fresh-baked pastry, and was so excited that she had to go get the neighbors and invite them over for coffee.
Basking in the glow of compliments from her mother and the neighbor ladies, Hoel knew at once that this was what she wanted to do with her life.
Hoel enrolled in a 22-month chef program at the Dakota County Vocational College in Roseville as soon as she graduated from high school.
From there, she took a job at the Radisson South. Her first assignment was to serve 900 scoops of ice cream.
Before long, she told the chef that this was not the kind of cooking she had in mind.
He found a new position for her, and she continued to advance to the position of assistant banquet chef.
She spent her time travelling around the country, doing grand openings at new locations.
She left the Radisson to take a job at Paradise Pastry in Minneapolis.
There, she learned handcraft baking.
She later took some business classes, and 19 years ago, she started her own business, Fun Foods Catering.
She invited a friend from grade school to the open house for her new business.
This led to a job as a chef at Starkey Foods, where her friend’s husband was employed.
She continued working and catering until last year when, while attending a catering conference, she realized she was ready for something more.
She had reached “a comfortable rut,’” and her husband told her that the only difference between her and the caterers speaking at the conference was the determination to open her own place.
The result was Chateau Lamothe, which opened in Burnsville last month with her partners Brenda and Andy Hammerschmidt.
It is a pairing of her love for cooking, and her husband David’s career in wine and liquor management.
Chateau means home, and that is the kind of environment they are trying to create.
It is the kind of place where people can go to relax and enjoy fellowship, with good food and wine.
Hoel never had to advertise for employees. Her staff is made up of people that she and her husband met through their careers in the food and wine business. They came to her when they heard about her new venture.
She describes the menu as “the best of the best from my 20 years of catering.”
There are no big dinners. It is all small plates featuring different kinds of hors d’oeuvres, which are Hoel’s specialty.
This allows people to try different wines or coffees with different foods.
During the process of opening the business, she discovered that the original spelling of her maiden name was Lamothe.
Her grandfather changed it when the postmaster kept mixing up his mail with his brothers.
She also discovered a wine from Chateau Lamothe in France, which gave her the name for her business, and which she now features in the wine bar.
Hoel has personalized the chateau with old family photos, and it has become a gallery for the original artwork of her cousin, Lester Prairie artist Stacy Stibal.
The chateau includes an events center, which is available for parties, banquets, music, and small theater productions.
When the hall is not booked for other events, Hoel plans to host her own events, including a women-only pajama party in November.
Hoel enjoys listening to what her customers want, and adapting the menu to the situation.
Hoel enjoys making food sculptures and turning food into something special.
“I try to put the ‘wow’ factor into everything I do,” Hoel said. “Creating something from nothing and making people happy. What could be better than that?”